We set so much criteria for redemptions and I’ve seen arguments that Ben’s redemption was only “middling” because he wasn’t redeemed sooner, etc., but I think this negates the fact that Ben’s been being redeemed since TFA. His redemption was not complete till mid-TROS, but he’s been stepping back into the light since the encounter with Han on the bridge. It’s slow and painful and laborious and step by step undoing each shadow and struggling toward the light because he wants to do good, he wants to love people (he’s literally in love with a girl whose name means light). From the very moment of his worst sin he’s catapulted onto the path of redemption because even as he kills Han, he experiences grace. Han touches his hand to his son’s cheek and it’s an “I love you” and “I forgive you” all in one, and Ben doesn’t get to live thinking he just IS this way and it’s inevitable and he couldn’t have made another choice. He has to live with the knowledge that even now he can come home and do good if he wants to. Even now he really can go back to the light. Han Solo saves his son by letting him do the worst possible thing to him and showing him no. Even now I love you and you can go home.
Ben is being harried by redemption. He’s running from it because it makes him hope and that hurts, because no one ever made him believe it really IS possible. (Even Luke Skywalker himself thought he was too far gone.) Killing Han is his way of getting rid of his own hope. But Han won’t let it work that way.
So we get a Ben who is a wreck. Because his hope that he can go back is also knowledge that he has a choice to make. And step by little baby step he starts to make it, even while he remains stuck in his belief that he never can join the good (because Han forgave him, but Ben has to accept that forgiveness.) He follows Snoke’s orders (but he has compassion on the girl, and tries to give her something she needs—help with her power). He attacks the Resistance ship (but he cannot commit the same sin again, the sin every fiber of him regrets; he refuses to fire on his mother). The girl hates him, because yes, he is a monster (but he knows what it’s like to be in her position, scared and alone with no one to help, so he tries to help her anyways, and when she comes to him scared and broken he sits, and listens, and cries, and tells her (his enemy), “you’re not alone.”)
Every bit of this, every gesture he makes in love, every right choice in place of a wrong one, is a small repentance, an inch closer to the light. Yes, I am a monster. (But I will do right. I will love. I will help.) (Yes I am a monster, but I don’t want to be.)
And with every act he grows more human. He loses his mask. He’s uncovered. He’s got tears in his eyes. He’s a person and his name is Ben. Rey carries on Han’s task—bring him home. But he does need help.
Because here’s the thing: we are always saying such and such a character has to “redeem themselves” But that’s not how it works. We don’t redeem ourselves. We always need help. And Ben is taking those steps; he wants it; but he hasn’t been shown fully that it’s possible. So he doesn’t believe he can get out yet. He’s stuck in his despair. He needs Leia and Rey (the light) to tell him they want him back. He needs to let himself fully believe what Han showed him. He apologizes, even if that could never cover what he means when he finally chokes out “Dad.” And Han assures him, I know. I know you love me. I know you regret all this every day. You’re my son. Now go do what you do best—love, hope, light the way.
All Ben needed to know was he was loved and that changed everything.
(We love because He first loved us).
Ben’s mortal sin was despair. But he stepped step by step back into the light and finally got out of the dark by choosing to hope and accept forgiveness. He regained his humanity because of it. He loved. There is no further way he could have been redeemed.
We do not ever “deserve” redemption—that’s the point of getting redeemed. It means you’ve done something to not deserve stuff. We do not redeem ourselves—we must know we are loved in order to love. We do not redeem ourselves by making up for our sins (we can’t pay back all we owe (that’s why we have the cross), but we are sorry and repent and do penance; we do what we can to restore the good and sin no more.) Ben was fully and beautifully and realistically redeemed, and his arc spanned 3 movies of learning to be human again. He was being redeemed all along.